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Types and Treatment of Peripheral Neuropathy

Updated on January 11, 2020
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral Neuropathy | Source

Nervous System Functions

The peripheral nervous system transmits messages to the brain and receives information for the rest of your body. Each peripheral nerve has a specific function. If you have peripheral nerve damage the symptoms will depend on the type of damaged peripheral nerve.

Classification of peripheral nerves include:

  1. Sensory nerves - They receive sensations that include pain, temperature, vibration or a touch to the skin.
  2. Motor nerves - These nerves control muscle movements.
  3. Autonomic nerves - They control various body functions that include your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and the bladder.

Peripheral Nerve Damage Symptoms

Symptoms of peripheral nerve damage may include a gradual onset of numbness, tingling or prickling that occurs in the feet or hands. It may spread upward throughout your legs and arms.

The signs and symptoms of peripheral nerve damage depend on the type of nerves damaged and these symptoms include:

  • Throbbing, jabbing, burning and sharp pain
  • Pain that occurs while doing activities that should not cause pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Muscular weakness
  • Lack of coordination and falling occurs
  • Feeling like you are wearing gloves when you are not
  • Paralysis in extremities

Specific symptoms and signs of impairment to the autonomic nervous system may include:

  • Excessive sweating or no sweating at all
  • Intolerance to heat
  • Bladder, bowel and digestive problems
  • A change in the blood pressure that may cause dizziness or lightheadedness

If peripheral neuropathy affects one nerve it is called mononeuropathy and if it affects two cells it is called polyneuropathy. An example of mononeuropathy is carpal tunnel. It is more common for people to have polyneuropathy. It can result from a traumatic injury, a metabolic problem, an infection, an inherited affects or an exposure to toxins. Diabetes is one of the most common causes.

Sensory Nerve


Peripheral Neuropathy Causes

There are several causes of nerve damage from peripheral neuropathy and they include:

  • Diabetes - Approximately one half of the people with diabetes will develop some type of neuropathy.
  • Autoimmune diseases - These diseases include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, sjogren's syndrome, Guillain-Barre syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and vasculitis.
  • Inherited disorders - Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is an example of an inherited disease causing neuropathy.
  • Infections - Infections that may cause peripheral neuropathy include: Epstein-Barr virus, shingles, Lyme disease, hepatitis B and C, diphtheria, HIV and leprosy.
  • Tumors - Growths that are noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant) can grow and press on a nerve. Polyneuropathy may occur as a result of a cancer that is related to the body’s immune response.
  • Bone marrow disorders - An abnormal protein (monoclonal gammopathies) in the blood, lymphoma, a form of bone cancer (myeloma) or a rare disease called amyloidosis.

Other possible causes - Kidney disease, connective tissue disorders, liver disease and a poorly functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism) are possible causes.

Other causes of peripheral neuropathy are alcoholism, poison exposure, vitamin deficiencies, trauma or pressure on the nerve and certain medications, particularly chemotherapy meds.

Diagnosis of Peripheral Neuropathy

A doctor can diagnose diabetic neuropathy with a thorough physical exam and by a review of your medical history and your symptoms.

A doctor will examine you for:

  • Your tendon reflexes
  • Your muscle strength and tone
  • You sensitivity to vibration and touch

The American Diabetes Association recommends that a doctor check the feet of a diabetic patient annually

There are several tests a doctor can also order, including:

  1. Filament test - A soft nylon fiber (monofilament) is rubbed over suspected damaged nerves to test your sensitivity to touch.
  2. Nerve Conduction Study - The is a measure of the arm and leg nerves and how quickly the nerves can conduct electrical signals.
  3. Quantitative Sensory testing - This is a noninvasive test that measures how well your nerves respond to vibration and a change in temperature.
  4. The Electromyography (EMG) - This is often ordered with the nerve conduction study to measure the electrical discharges produced in your muscles.
  5. Autonomic testing - This test may be ordered if you have symptoms of autonomic neuropathy as this test measures blood pressure changes when you are in different positions and if you sweat normally

Diabetes: Nerve Damage

Treatments for Peripheral Neuropathy

There is no known cure for peripheral neuropathy. There are medications to treat peripheral neuropathy, particularly if the condition that is causing the neuropathy is treatable.

Treatments are designed to slow the progression of nerve damage, to manage any complications and to relieve pain.There are medications for diabetic-related nerve pain, but they do not always work.

Damaged motor nerves can affect your ability to control your muscles, therefore you may experience painful cramps, muscle spasms and muscle twitching. It may be hard to perform simple physical tasks, like buttoning your shirt. Exercise to maintain your muscles and strengthen them may help avoid further motor nerve damage.

There are several medications available to treat neuropathy, which include:

  1. Anti-seizure medications - pregabalin (Lyrica), Gabapentin (Gralise, Neurontin), carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Tegretol)
  2. Antidepressants - They disrupt the chemical processes that allow the brain to feel pain and you do not have to have depression for these medications to work. Two classes of antidepressants are used, tricyclics and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors that may have fewer side effects.
  3. Pain Medications - These may be prescribed when other types of treatment does not work.

Other options include:

  1. Capsaicin cream that is rubbed on painful areas.
  2. Alpha-lipoic acid, which is a vitamin that can be purchased over-the-counter and it is found in some food.
  3. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which interrupts pain signals sent to the brain.
  4. Acupuncture may relieve pain without side effects.


Peripheral Neuropathy Risk Factors

There are several possible risk factors that may cause peripheral neuropathy, which include:

  • Diabetes - This is particularly true when the blood sugar levels are not well controlled.
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Vitamin deficiency - particularly the B vitamins
  • Autoimmune diseases - rheumatoid arthritis, lupus
  • Infections - Lyme disease, hepatitis, Epstein-Barr virus, HIV, hepatitis B and C
  • Kidney, liver or thyroid disease
  • Toxin exposure
  • A family history of neuropathy
  • Repetitive motions - like those performed at a particular job

Complications of Peripheral Neuropathy

An infection of your feet or other areas of the body that lack sensation may become infected without your knowledge. It is important to check the areas without sensation on a regular basis.

Burns or skin trauma may also occur without your awareness due to the numbness.

Weakness, loss of sensation and falling may occur due to lack of balance. It is important to exercise, eat healthy, quit smoking, avoid repetitive motions and stay out of cramped positions that put extra pressure on areas where your nerves are damaged.

Peripheral Neuropathy

In Conclusion

An infection of your feet or other areas of the body that lack sensation may become infected without your knowledge. It is important to check the areas without sensation on a regular basis.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy, Our of control blood glucose will cause multiple problems. I appreciate your comments.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    7 days ago from Houston, Texas

    Hi Pamela,

    You continue to educate people about important topics such as this one that affects many people who have diabetes, among other diseases, especially if out of control.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    3 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Robert, I appreciate your comments.

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    3 weeks ago

    Another informative medical article. Thank you for posting.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Alyssa, I don't think we could ever have enough information about health so I am happy thar you come away learning something new. Your comments are much appreciated.

  • Alyssa Nichol profile image


    4 weeks ago from Ohio

    Another interesting article. I appreciate these medical explanations and updates. I always come away learning something new. Thank you for sharing, Pamela!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Maria, As a nurse educator and a friend I truly appreciate your comments. Have a great week Maria.

    Love and hugs.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Shwetha, Thank you so much for your very nice comments.

  • Shwetha raashi profile image

    Shwetha bhat 

    5 weeks ago from Bengaluru

    Very interesting article. I heard this term in my graduation time, but your hub explains in detail. Thanks for sharing.

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    5 weeks ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Dear Pamela,

    You have a gift of explaining medical issues, etiologies and interventions in an understandable and meaningful way for all.

    Thanks for another valuable update.



  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lora, You are exactly right. These are painful consequences if you ignore the symptoms and do not get treated. I appreciate your very generous comments.

  • Lora Hollings profile image

    Lora Hollings 

    5 weeks ago

    An excellent and most informative article on peripheral neuropathy which most people probably never heard of. It is so important to see your doctor and get treatment if you have any of these symptoms and it can certainly have severe consequences. I learned a lot from your article about the causes of this disease and its treatments! Thanks for sharing.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Devika, I think you are exactly right as this is often initially overlooked. Your comments are appreciaed.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi MG Singh, I am glad you found this article interesting. Thank you for your comments.

  • emge profile image

    MG Singh 

    5 weeks ago from Singapore

    I didn't know anything about this and it was a revelation. Thank you for a very interesting hub.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    5 weeks ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Pamela Oglesby

    Thank you for the interesting, mot helpful hub that I came across concerning this health problem. Often it is ignored or overlooked and nobody knows until it becomes severe. Useful tips and one should be aware of the symptoms.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, I wish there was a cure also as living on pain meds for the rest of your life is not pleasant.

    Thanks so much for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lorna, The feet in particular for diabetes is a problem over time. I see such advances in most helth problems, but I haven't seen much new for neuropathies.

    I appreciate your ggenerous comments.

  • Lorna Lamon profile image

    Lorna Lamon 

    5 weeks ago

    Another really informative article Pamela and in particular for those at risk.My Uncle has been a diabetic for most of his life and was diagnosed with Peripheral neuropathy due to an infection in his feet. I think he has tried most medications and is now on a cocktail of pain meds. Like most other conditions research needs to be ongoing and unfortunately this depends on funding. Great article.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

    Thanks for sharing another educational article. I wish there was a cure for peripheral neuropathy.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lori, I do use a lot of sources to get the latest information as I retired from nursing quite a while ago. There is new research all the time. I am glad you found the article to be informative.

    i certainly appreciate your generous comments always, Lori.

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 

    5 weeks ago from Pacific Northwest

    Pamela, your articles on health are so well done and thorough. It shows that you've done your research. They are not bogged down with lengthy minute details. And of course listing your sources is very good. Thanks once again for a very informative article.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Susan, i hope you don't experience it either, especially as you have some health ailments already. It is very painful for sure. I appreciate your comments. Have a nice weekend, Susan.

  • mandalinlady profile image


    5 weeks ago from Dover Delaware

    Very informative article. Hope I don't experience it, I think I have my share of ailments, and least I hope so. (:

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill, I'm glad this is new to you, which means you do not have this problem.

    Thank you for your very nice comments and I wish you a weekend filled with blessings also.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Rebecca, It is good to know the symptoms of any disorder and then hope you never have the problem. Your comments are appreciated.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Flourish, Your description of your discomfort sounds exactly like nerve pain. I hope it doesn't increase in frequency. I appreciate your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    5 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Mel, I'm glad you don't have any nerve damage but it is good to be aware of the symptoms just in care.

    Thank you so much for your nice comments.

  • Mel Carriere profile image

    Mel Carriere 

    5 weeks ago from San Diego California

    Since I suffer from psoriatic arthritis this somewhat troubles me, but so far I haven't had any nerve damage such as this. It is fantastic you are raising awareness on this issue, keep up the great work!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    5 weeks ago from USA

    Omg I have had this for years in my feet. It doesn’t always affect me but randomly I will feel electric like shock that are sudden and strong, much more in one foot than the other. It feels almost like a cattle prod is so strong.

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 

    5 weeks ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    Good information to know. I hope never to have this disorder, but thanks for explaining so thoroughly!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

    Totally new to me, Pamela. I may have heard of it, but I sure didn't know what it was. Thank you for the very interesting article, and I hope your weekend is filled with blessings.


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